Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are often confused. Because of this, many people consume the wrong kind of shake for their goals. Needless to say, making this mistake can prevent weight loss, prevent muscle gain, and even cause fat gain!
What’s your goal ?
Looking to lose weight ? Scroll to Meal Replacement Shakes section, and learn why it’s an effective way to lose weight.
Looking to gain muscle ? Scroll to Protein Shakes section and find way it the right solution to you.
1. Meal replacement shakes
Meal replacement shakes are designed to help you achieve weight loss. You drink one or two shakes per day in place of your normal meal to control your food intake easily and simply. While you can replace several meals per day with a shake, I think that two or even one shake per day works fine. In fact, to lose weight, I only replaced my breakfast with a shake.
What a meal replacement shake should contain
Meal replacement shakes are typically low in calories – around 300 or less. They also have several other important characteristics: ( in detail, the 10 most important ingredients a meal replacement shake for weight loss must have)
Protein – important for making you feel fuller for longer, increasing your metabolism, and maintaining your muscles
Low carbs – too many carbs can make weight loss very hard which is why most good meal replacement shakes limit carbs to maximize fat burning. This also helps to keep the calories down
Very low/no sugar – added sugar would cause your blood glucose and insulin levels to spike which will inhibit fat burning. All good meal replacement shakes are very low or even free from sugar
Contain fiber – fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer and is also important for digestive health. A good meal replacement shake should contain around five grams of fiber per servings
Vitamins and minerals – a weight loss diet should still be a healthy diet and so a good weight loss shake should contain vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals don’t contain any calories but are essential for your health. They are also important antioxidants
Healthy fats – many people are wrongly scared of fats but they are actually very important for your health. Any good meal replacement shake should contain some healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil or fish oil
Added extras – some meal replacement shakes may also contain added extras such as probiotics to keep your digestive system healthy
Meal replacement shakes take the pain out of losing weight. Many diets require you to completely rewrite your diet plan – from breakfast to dinner. This is not always practical – especially if you have no time for cooking or shopping for groceries.
In essence, meal replacements are a healthy meal in a glass. You can blend your own from any number of recipes (homemade meal replacement shakes) that you can find or buy pre-prepared meal replacement shakes such as my top 3 personal recommendations: IdealShake, RAW Organic Meal or Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake (my reviews and details at best meal replacement shakes for weight loss).
Swapping out one or two meals per day is not only an easy way to lose weight, it saves you having to cook special fat-fighting meals and are generally very cost effective. You can usually consume your meal replacement shake anywhere you like which means there is no reason not to be able to stick to a meal replacement diet.
Meal replacement diets are a great, easy, simple way to lose weight – just chose one of two meals per day and replace them with a meal replacement shake. Follow my “How to Lose weight with meal replacement shakes” plan to organize your diet and star to lose weight.
Looking for meal replacement shakes recipes ? I’ve shared some more here.
Protein shakes, unlike meal replacement shakes, are not designed for weight loss but for muscle gain. When you exercise, your muscles are broken down a little – a process called catabolism. To repair this damage and build the muscles back bigger and stronger, protein is required. Most experts agree that you need around one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight or about two grams per kilogram.
Getting enough protein per day can be tough unless you are able to eat meat, fish, eggs, chicken or dairy at each and every meal of the day – all six of them! Even then, it’s still not easy.
Protein shakes make it easier to get enough protein into your diet as they are easy to drink and require no preparation other than mixing with water and then chugging down. There are several types of protein shake you can get:
Whey protein – made from dairy so high in protein but also contain lactose which many people are allergic to (my selection of the best whey protein).
Caseinate – also made from dairy, caseinate is a slow-releasing protein ideal for nighttime use (top caseinate protein)
Egg protein – a good source of protein but not a very nice tasting shake (best egg protein available on the market)
Soya protein – good for vegetarians but not a very good source of protein compared to whey (best 2 soya protein)
Hemp protein – better than soya and also good for vegetarians however can be expensive (best hemp protein selection)
Pea and rice protein – another expensive option but ideal for vegetarians (pea and rice protein)
Beef isolate protein – a new development in protein powders. Doesn’t taste beefy but is unsuitable for vegetarians
Don’t know what is the best protein for you ? Read our “Choosing the best protein powder” guide.
Protein shake timing
To maximize muscle growth and recovery from exercise, you need to consume protein throughout the day. If “real” food is not possible, a protein shake is an ideal alternative.
As well as providing a much-needed protein shot, protein shakes are also ideal for immediately before, during and after workouts – especially strength training.
Before a workout, a protein shake will minimize muscle break down during training
During a workout, protein shakes will help start the repair process
After a workout your protein shake will help speed up recovery.
Protein shakes generally contain very little else other than protein and a typical serving provides anywhere between 15 to 30 grams or more of protein. You can add other things to your protein shake to give it more calories such as fruit, peanut butter, or coconut oil, but this turns an almost pure protein shake into a weight gainer or meal replacement shake. Most protein powders are designed to be mixed with just a little water or milk to keep the emphasis on protein. Find my tasty, high on fiber and healthy protein shakes recipes here.
Do you NEED a protein shake?
If you are exercising hard and trying to build muscle, a protein shake may be useful – especially if you are training hard with weights and struggle to eat enough protein per day. If, however, you do mostly cardio and/or already eat a lot of high-protein food, you probably don’t need a protein shake too unless it’s part of a meal replacement for fat loss.
Now you know the difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes you should have no problem choosing the right one for your goals. And no matter what it is you are trying to achieve, it is important to remember that the occasional meal replacement or protein shake won’t have miraculous effects on your progress if the rest of your habits are not healthy.
Instead, you need to use them regularly and combine them with a generally healthy lifestyle. Small changes, such as drinking more water, exercising regularly, eating plenty of vegetables, and walking more can go a very long way to making you fit and healthy, and adding the right kind of shake can help get you the results you want.
Hi, great article! I have the Raw chocolate protein powder, but I don’t work out everyday, about 3 days a week, sometimes less. I’m wondering if I can get the RAW Meal and drink that for breakfast on days I don’t work out, and then drink my RAW protein after I workout on the days I do go to the gym? I’m trying to lose a little weight.
Thanks for your comment. Based on my experience, a meal replacement shake for breakfast combined with healthy snacks and healthy meals will help you to lose weight. First time starting meal replacement shakes, I would recommend doing it 2 or 3 times per week, giving time to your body to get used to the shakes. So, you are considering 2 or 3 times a week replace your breakfast with a Raw Meal Shake, I would say that’s a very good way to start. Regarding protein, it all depends how much protein you have on your workout days. If you feel you need to add protein to your diet on those days, continue with your protein shake. Hope I’ve helped you. Have a great day.
will this meal replacement can be consider a replacement for the snack between meals or it will be to much
or what you would recommend for between meals
also if i start weigh lifting in the gym can i also drink my regular protein shake before or after work out if i already drinking meal replacement in the morning and the night
Hi, thanks for your comment.
In between meals I would recommend a protein bar, as it contains less calories when compared to a meal replacement shake (more about the differences on my article “Protein Bars Vs Meal Replacement Shakes“. You can buy protein bars or do your own protein bars, more and recipes at homemade protein bars vs commercial protein bars. I’ve shared my favorite protein bars and help you to find the one that better suits your needs at The Best Protein Bar for You
Regarding protein shake. If you are looking to build muscle, protein is important but most certainly the meal replacement shake you are drinking should have around 30 grams (per scoop or per 2 scoops depending on the product). Plus if you drink another one at night you have another 30 grams of protein, so in total 60 grams per day. I don’t know your weight or your goals to build muscle but, and not knowing all that data, I would say that 60 grams per day is enough. In my article “Beginner’s Guide to Protein Powder” there’s a table with how much protein a person should have per day, depending, of course, on the weight, the type of exercise and the goals.
Hope I’ve answered your question. Have a great day and good luck with your goals !
Hi , What if the person goals are to loose weight and gain muscle/tighten up?
Would they use the two combine ? i.e. Meal replacement shake for one meal and protein shake after the gym?
How would that work. And i mean
Thanks for your comment. Meal replacement shakes are designed to replace a meal providing all your body needs but with way less calories. By reducing your calorie intake you lose weight. Protein shakes deliver the protein your body needs to build muscle. If you want to lose weight and build muscle: I would recommend, replace your breakfast with a shake and after/before your workout have a protein shake. Have a great day.
Sarah, this article was fantastic and just what I needed to help make some nutritional decisions. I am a 50 year old male that is looking to lose weight. I am only 5.5 and weigh about 195lbs. I have been exercising at the gym, not lifting weights, and feeling really good. The problem is I over eat. The meal replacement is what i would like to try. Would you have a few inexpensive recommendations on the best product to try.
Thank you, Kerry